Ryan Grube, Staff Writer
For 17 minutes and 4 seconds Wednesday night, the atmosphere in the Siegel Center fell flat.
The high-energy crowd known for its loud screams and distracting chants was reduced to an atypical combination of moans and groans, as they watched their Rams fall victim to three separate extended scoring droughts in a 72-67 loss to George Mason.
After sophomore guard KeShawn Curry hit a running floater with just over 14 minutes remaining in the first half, the black and gold went without a bucket for nearly six and a half minutes.
Senior guard De’Riante Jenkins attributed the shortage of baskets to the Patriots setting the tone from the tip.
“They came in with a great game plan, and they got the best of us,” Jenkins said. “We weren’t the aggressor, we weren’t playing VCU style of play.”
With every shot that dropped through the net, George Mason set up in a full-court press, designed to slow down VCU’s offense in the half court. Open attempts clanked off the rim for the black and gold, as the Patriots’ lead grew to as high as 8 points before the break.
The Rams, led by a flurry of steals, fought back to take a 33-30 lead going into the halftime intermission.
But, the slow play on offense returned out of the tunnels, as VCU was held scoreless through the first 5 minutes and 37 seconds to open the second half. George Mason used a 6-0 spurt to take a 3-point lead.
A layup off the fingers of senior forward Mike’L Simms brought the arena back to life, as the raucous cheers and chaotic balloon waving returned.
The second-half excitement was minimal, though. Following a jumper by senior guard Malik Crowfield that cut the Rams’ deficit to 1, the lid repositioned itself atop VCU’s rim.
George Mason utilized a 16-0 run over the course of five minutes to take a commanding 17-point lead with 6:32 remaining. The stretch effectively put the game away for the visiting Patriots, who notched their third win in Atlantic-10 play.
The black and gold made a last-ditch attempt to revive their offense down the stretch, but coach Mike Rhoades and company wouldn’t inch any closer than 3 points — on a triple from Jenkins with 44 seconds to play.
VCU shot 0-for-20 combined during its three scoring droughts. Rhoades called the loss and poor shooting performance “a disappointment,” adding that the result is going to sting for a long time to come.
“I thought at times, we were just sloppy with the basketball,” Rhoades said. “There were times where we had some drives where we were just really wild trying to finish it, and we gotta be mentally tougher.”
Rhoades said effort is going to be a big dictator in the team’s response with a tough upcoming stretch.
“We wish we had it back, but we don’t. That’s why it’s a long season,” Rhoades said. “But put our big boy pants on, and get to work tomorrow,” Rhoades said.
The Rams will travel to the University of Richmond on Saturday at 4 p.m.